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Dental morphology in homo habilis and its implications for the evolution of early homo.

Davies, Thomas W., Gunz, Philipp, Spoor, Fred, Alemseged, Zeresenay, Gidna, Agness, Hublin, Jean-Jacques, Kimbel, William H., Kullmer, Ottmar, Plummer, William Philip, Zanolli, Clément, and others. (2024) Dental morphology in homo habilis and its implications for the evolution of early homo. Nature Communications, 15 (1). Article Number 286. E-ISSN 2041-1723. (doi:10.1038/s41467-023-44375-9) (KAR id:104596)


The phylogenetic position of Homo habilis is central to debates over the origin and early evolution of the genus Homo. A large portion of the species hypodigm consists of dental remains, but they have only been studied at the often worn enamel surface. We investigate the morphology of the H. habilis enamel-dentine junction (EDJ), which is preserved in cases of moderate tooth wear and known to carry a strong taxonomic signal. Geometric morphometrics is used to characterise dentine crown shape and size across the entire mandibular and maxillary tooth rows, compared with a broad comparative sample (n = 712). We find that EDJ morphology in H. habilis is for the most part remarkably primitive, supporting the hypothesis that the H. habilis hypodigm has more in common with Australopithecus than later Homo. Additionally, the chronologically younger specimen OH 16 displays a suite of derived features; its inclusion in H. habilis leads to excessive levels of variation.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1038/s41467-023-44375-9
Uncontrolled keywords: Mandible; Animals; Hominidae; Phylogeny; Fossils; Biological Evolution
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Funders: European Research Council (
Calleva Foundation (
Max Planck Society (
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2024 13:20 UTC
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2024 14:21 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Davies, Thomas W..

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Plummer, William Philip.

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Skinner, Matthew M..

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